The Big Day Out was adored by fans, but no one liked it more than Ken West

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“The thing about Ken… he was an artist,” Kent said. He loved art and creating, he was someone who was looking for interesting, creative things around him.

Bjork’s Big Day Out performance in 2008 was one of the most dazzling highlights of the festival.Credit:Penny Stephens

“He wasn’t your normal promoter, he was a creator and on top of that he was a real provocateur, he wanted people to think about what they were doing.

“International [overseas artists] would come by, do that tour for the first time and talk about it for a long time afterwards. You’d see them abroad on tours or whatever, and you’d feel it – Ken had a really positive impact on people by putting all his energy into it.”

Australian bands took advantage of the BDO’s huge popularity, with the likes of Spiderbait, the Cruel Sea, Something For Kate, Grinspoon, the Clouds, the Avalanches, Yothu Yindi and Killing Heidi playing to large outdoor crowds across the country.


Earlier on that unforgettable day in 2006, before Iggy Pop wandered and the public lost their collective mind to Real cool time and nice houseit was local bands Airbourne, Wolfmother, the Presets and Magic Dirt among the hometown heroes that gained new fans.

Kim Salmon, who spent years touring the country with Beasts of Bourbon, the scientists and the Surrealists playing BDO shows, says: “Ken was incredibly approachable, level-headed and he helped so many people” for more than three decades in the music industry .

“He shared his entire contact book of agents and bookers with me, and among them was New Order. “Call them,” Ken would say, so I did, and the scientists just got a gig with New Order,” Salmon said.

“During the Big Day Out, you dealt with them (foreign performers) as equals, and that was one of the best things about the Big Day Out, hanging out with Iggy and his band, hanging out with Kim Gordon.

“There was nothing for Ken to do… there might be technicalities that needed to be addressed, something on the podium, and he’d be at the hardware store sorting it out.

“He was always very generous and willing to help. And he was a real visionary, maybe that’s what made him unique.”

Five great moments on the Big Day Out

1994, Soundgarden
Just weeks before the release of their critically acclaimed chart-topping album above unknown, the late Chris Cornell and his bandmates headlined and left no doubt that they were one of the hottest bands in the world. Ten numbers. All killer. No filler.

1996, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue
If you were somewhere else and missed this hot and heavy moment between two of Australia’s biggest stars, chances are someone else told you about it. Duets on their hit Where the wild roses growthe interplay on stage was powerful and left most who saw it needed a nice cool drink.

2000, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros
The Clash toured here in 1982, playing Festival Hall in Melbourne and Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, but it’s doubtful many young punks from this BDO have seen those shows. Dressed in black from head to toe, Strummer was worth the wait nearly two decades later, as he revived Clash classics, including Rock the CasbahRudie can’t fail and a brilliant cover of the Maytals’ Pressure drop

2008, Rage Against the Machine
In a year when Bjork and Arcade Fire were in scorching shape, it took a lot to top an already memorable day, but RATM reached new heights. The earth literally moved as the crowd rode any moment, from a swell Bulls on parade to the closing song Kill in the name† Epic.

2014, Pearl Jam
The last year had an air of nostalgia with Mudhoney returning, Snoop Dog in the house and the Hives holding the main stage, where 90s powerhouse Pearl Jam delivered the knockout feat. This year was also notable for major performances by local acts Violent Soho, Northlane, Tame Impala and Flume, whose sophomore album is chart-topping Skin was gone for another two years.

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